WD Black SN850X Vs. Samsung 990 PRO: Clash of the Titans

Samsung 990 Pro Versus WD Black SN850X

The 990 PRO is still Samsung’s flagship M.2 SSD in late 2023. Although there are now faster PCI-Express 5.0 (Gen5) SSDs in the consumer market, Samsung is biding its time before releasing an SSD for the new interface.

Western Digital is also holding back on Gen5, meaning that the WD Black SN850X is still the fastest NVMe SSD from WD at the time of writing. This follows the launch patterns from Gen4, with a range of nearly identical SSDs based on a Phison controller being the only alternatives for several months after the rollout of a new interface.

In any event, the WD Black SN850X and Samsung 990 PRO are two of the fastest Gen4 SSDs to date. And it’s quite likely that they will keep their top spots indefinitely – not just because manufacturers and users move to Gen5 SSDs, but also because they largely max out the Gen4 interface.

SN850X Vs. 990 PRO: Specifications

This table compares the 2TB capacities. Specifications for the full lineups can be found at the bottom of this page.

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB
WD_BLACK SN850X 2TB
SAMSUNG 990 PRO Series - 2TB PCIe Gen4. X4 NVMe 2.0c - M.2 Internal SSD (MZ-V9P2T0B/AM)
WD_BLACK 2TB SN850X NVMe Internal Gaming SSD Solid State Drive - Gen4 PCIe, M.2 2280, Up to 7,300 MB/s - WDS200T2X0E
Form Factor
M.2 2280
M.2 2280
Interface/Protocol
PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
SSD Controller
Proprietary Samsung (Pascal)
Proprietary SanDisk
DRAM
2GB LPDDR4-4266
2GB DDR4-3200
NAND
176-layer TLC
112L BiCS5 TLC
Sequential Read
7,450 MB/s
7,300 MB/s
Sequential Write
6,900 MB/s
6,600 MB/s
Random Read
1.4M IOPS
1.2M IOPS
Random Write
1.55M IOPS
1.1M IOPS
Endurance Rating
1,200 TBW
1,200 TBW
Warranty
5 Years
5 Years
Samsung 990 PRO 2TB
SAMSUNG 990 PRO Series - 2TB PCIe Gen4. X4 NVMe 2.0c - M.2 Internal SSD (MZ-V9P2T0B/AM)
Form Factor
M.2 2280
Interface/Protocol
PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
SSD Controller
Proprietary Samsung (Pascal)
DRAM
2GB LPDDR4-4266
NAND
176-layer TLC
Sequential Read
7,450 MB/s
Sequential Write
6,900 MB/s
Random Read
1.4M IOPS
Random Write
1.55M IOPS
Endurance Rating
1,200 TBW
Warranty
5 Years
Shopping Links
WD_BLACK SN850X 2TB
WD_BLACK 2TB SN850X NVMe Internal Gaming SSD Solid State Drive - Gen4 PCIe, M.2 2280, Up to 7,300 MB/s - WDS200T2X0E
Form Factor
M.2 2280
Interface/Protocol
PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
SSD Controller
Proprietary SanDisk
DRAM
2GB DDR4-3200
NAND
112L BiCS5 TLC
Sequential Read
7,300 MB/s
Sequential Write
6,600 MB/s
Random Read
1.2M IOPS
Random Write
1.1M IOPS
Endurance Rating
1,200 TBW
Warranty
5 Years
Shopping Links

Last update on 2024-03-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

When simply comparing the specifications, it certainly looks like the Samsung 990 PRO is a clear winner.  Even if the WD Black SN850X is substantially faster than many competitors, it lags behind the Samsung flagship in all performance metrics.

Both SSDs use an onboard DDR4 buffer and offer identical warranty and endurance terms. Samsung uses its in-house controller and NAND Flash memory chips, and the same goes for WD, which uses a controller/NAND combo from its subsidiary SanDisk.

SN850X Vs. 990 PRO: Performance

Of course, specification tables cannot be directly translated into real-world performance. Here’s how the two SSDs differ in our own data. Note that we are comparing the 2TB Samsung 990 PRO with the 4TB WD Black SN850X. The 2TB and 4TB WD drives nevertheless come with identical specs, so this shouldn’t noticeably affect the results.

The test system consists of an MSI Z790 Carbon motherboard, Core i7-13700K(F) CPU, and 32 GB of Kingston DDR5-6000 CL36 RAM. All drives are tested in the same M.2 slot.

AS SSD Sequential Performance

SN850X Vs 990 PRO AS SSD chart

AS SSD uses incompressible data and the sequential performance results are typically far below what you see in the spec sheets. Both the SN850X and 990 PRO are very fast in this particular benchmark. The Samsung drive is slightly ahead in the sequential write area, whereas the SN850X is in the lead in terms of read speeds.

CrystalDiskMark Sequential & Random Performance

SN850X Vs 990 PRO CrystalDiskMark sequential performance chart

In the CrystalDiskMark benchmark, the numbers are typically more in line with the specification tables. The Samsung 990 is marginally ahead of the WD Black SN850X by about 3% in sequential reads/writes.

SN850X Vs 990 PRO CrystalDiskMark random performance chart

Random performance at minimum queue depths is often a better indicator of overall performance in many real-world scenarios. Here, the Samsung 990 PRO holds a clear lead over its rival by 23,5% (read) and 28% (write).

Latency (Anvil’s Storage Utilities)

SN850X Vs 990 PRO Latency chart

Latency is another important metric that corresponds to actual performance in a range of workloads. Again, the Samsung 990 PRO is about 20% faster than the WD Black SN850X.

SN850X Vs. 990 PRO: Real-World Performance

SN850X Vs 990 PRO PCMark 10 App start-up chart

The App Start-up times (cold start) from PCMark 10 show that the Samsung SSD is slightly faster on average, but is not necessarily faster than the SN850X in all situations.

SN850X Vs 990 PRO game level loading times chart

The same thing applies to the standalone Final Fantasy Shadowbringer benchmark, where loading times for five different game levels are combined into a total. Only a few insignificant milliseconds separate the two SSDs. As long as DirectStorage is not involved, even an SSD in an M.2 enclosure can rival high-end internal SSDs in this benchmark (and likely in more than a few actual games).

3DMark Storage Benchmark

SN850X Vs 990 PRO 3DMark Storage Benchmark chart

UL’s 3DMark Storage Benchmark combines a range of gaming workloads – not just loading times, but also copying and recording games. The Samsung 990 PRO comes out ahead of the WD Black SN850X by 15% as measured in average bandwidth.

Here’s a breakdown of the individual results.

3DMark Storage Benchmark Details

PlayStation 5 Read Speed Test

SN850X Vs 990 PRO PlayStation 5 performance chart

Although non-compliant drives like the SN770 will also work with the PS5, the Samsung 990 PRO or WD Black SN850X are better suited as storage expansions SSDs for the PlayStation 5 console. You should opt for the versions with a heat spreader to be fully in line with Sony’s recommendation. In the simple read-speed test, the difference between these flagship drives is negligible. 

Conclusion

The Winner: Samsung 990 PRO

Overall Winner: Samsung 990 PRO

On average, Samsung’s 990 PRO is faster than the Western Digital WD Black SN850X. However, it is not necessarily faster by amounts that are noticeable in the real world. Either of these SSDs is a good choice for a high-end gaming PC build in 2023 or as a storage add-on for the PS5.

read more:

Samsung 990 PRO Series Specifications

Samsung 990 PRO
Specifications
1TB2TB4TB
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface/
Protocol
PCIe 4.0 x4/
NVMe 2.0
PCIe 4.0 x4/
NVMe 2.0
PCIe 4.0 x4/
NVMe 2.0
ControllerPascalPascalPascal
DRAM1GB LPDDR42GB LPDDR44GB LPDDR4
Memory176-layer
3D TLC
176-layer
3D TLC
176-layer
3D TLC
Sequential Read7,450 MB/s7,450 MB/s7,450 MB/s
Sequential Write6,900 MB/s6,900 MB/s6,900 MB/s
Random Read1.2M IOPS1.4M IOPS1.4M IOPS
Random Write1.55M IOPS1.55M IOPS1.55M IOPS
Endurance600 TBW1,200 TBW2,400 TBW
Warranty5-Year5-Year5-Year

WD Black SN850X Series Specifications

WD Black SN850X
Specifications
1TB2TB4TB
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface/
Protocol
PCIe 4.0 x4/
NVMe 1.4
PCIe 4.0 x4/
NVMe 1.4
PCIe 4.0 x4/
NVMe 1.4
ControllerProprietary
8-channel
Proprietary
8-channel
Proprietary
8-channel
DRAMLPDDR4LPDDR4LPDDR4
Memory112-layer
BiCS5 TLC
112-layer
BiCS5 TLC
112-layer
BiCS5 TLC
Sequential Read7,300 MB/s7,300 MB/s7,300 MB/s
Sequential Write6,300 MB/s6,600 MB/s6,600 MB/s
Random Read800K IOPS1.2M IOPS1.2M IOPS
Random Write1.1M IOPS1.1M IOPS1.1M IOPS
Endurance600 TBW1,200 TBW2,400 TBW
Warranty5-Year5-Year5-Year
Jesper Berg
Jesper Berg

I got started with PC building in the 3dfx Voodoo era somewhere back in the 1990s, and have been writing for tech publications for a bit more than a decade. In other words old enough to have lost count of the times PC gaming has been pronounced dead.

4 Comments
  1. Why not use the newer FF endwalker benchmark instead of shadow bringer

  2. Any reason to compare 2Tb vs 4Tb? They are never on the same line. No matter what specs says. Removing this site from my feeds.

    • The reason is mainly that these are the capacities I’ve tested (don’t have the resources to test all capacities of the same drive, unfortunately).

      In this case, I would also argue that it’s quite reasonable since the 2TB and 4TB specs are identical for these two models, respectively. It would be very different if it was 1TB Vs 512GB, where the smaller one would practically always perform worse.

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